The hospital cafeteria is one site where youth and young adults with disabilities can learn workforce skills. Initially, we spend time on the dish washing line, learning how manage the incoming pots, pans and plates in order to insure proper sanitizing. This work is often fast paced and we learn how to work quickly and efficiently. During slower periods we join with hospital staff to prepare food. In the photo above, Nick Bell, the first River's Way participant placed in a paying job at the hospital, learns to sort bacon.

River's Way provides opportunities for youth and young adults to experience workforce settings and to hone soft skills. Our goal is to encourage a workforce mentality where our participants see employment as the next step once high school is completed. We recently collaborated with Ballad Health and with Bristol Tennessee City Schools and Bristol Virginia Public Schools to set up a workforce program at the Bristol Regional Medical Center. Participants are classified as volunteer interns and they have jobs related to cleaning, food preparation and social interaction with patients. We focus on soft skills including appropriate dress and hygiene, appropriate communications, staying on task, maintaining a positive attitude, serving others and working hard. We encourage participants to apply for positions that open up within the hospital. For those going on to jobs in other areas, the hospital experience provides a valuable introduction to working in a professional setting.